Rural England Stakeholder Group Meeting – 22nd February 2016


Alice Woudhuysen (Age UK); Anna Bradley-Dorman (NFWI); Hannah Barnley (PCF); Sarah Lee (Countryside Alliance); Jonathan Clark (Big Lottery Fund); Richard Qualllington (ACRE); Jo Lavis (RE); Margaret Clark (ex CRC); Trevor Cherrett (TCPA); Brian Wilson (RE); Andy Dean (RE); David Webb (FSB); Sarah Palmer (NFUFC); David Inman(RE/RSN); Graham Biggs (RE/RSN); Alison McLean (ex CRC); Holly Jago (Calor Gas Ltd); Belinda Gordon (CPRE); Jane Hart (RE).

Charles Smith; Suzanne Clear; John Birtwistle; Sheena Asthana, Helen Aldis; Mark Shucksmith; Jerry Marshall; Polly Gibb; Tamara Hooper; Deborah Clarke; Neil Cleeveley.

The Chair, Alison McLean, opened the meeting at 1.30 p.m. and welcomed those present.  This was followed by brief introductions.

The Chair then commended the excellent presentations given to the Stakeholder Group in December 2015:

Community Right to Buy in Scotland by Ellie Brodie

Evaluating Community Initiatives and Programmes using Social Return on Investment by Janet Dwyer

Austerity Welfare Reform and Older People in Wales by Paul Milbourne

(These can be accessed via the following link

The notes of the previous meeting were agreed,

Age UK was thanked for the use of the room.

The Group was informed of the appointment of Holly Jago as a Director and also that an approach had been made to the Prince’s Countryside Fund to nominate a further Director. There was a need to ensure there was a balanced Board.

A. Research Matters

(1) Rural Vulnerability
Jane Hart referred to the 4 papers that had previously been circulated and summarised some of the key factors contributing to a ‘perfect storm’ of demographic and budgetary pressures affecting the vulnerability of older people in rural England both now and in the future.

Reference was also made to interviews conducted in Dorset and Herefordshire.

A number of comments and observations were made including:

·         That many of the factors also impacted on other sectors of the community
·         That issues affecting different age groups of older people are very different
·         Many elderly people make a very positive contribution to their local communities.
·         The importance of dissemination and publicity, including recognition of supporters.

It was concluded that a short covering report (to be prepared) should draw out the main findings and also pose a number of differentiated questions for Government, Local Authorities and services providers.

It was further suggested that good practice examples of initiatives addressing the vulnerability of older rural residents would be a useful supplementary area of work and one which could be undertaken incrementally.

The report would now be circulated to Stakeholders not present and also to Commercial Supporters to see if there were any areas into which they wished to input.

(2) The State of Rural Services
Brian Wilson presented a paper relating to nine potential service topics for the 2016 SORS project which included a list of potential evidence sources. He specifically noted that there is a distinct paucity of data relating to some of these topics. It is intended to have a draft available in August 2016.

It was agreed to progress the nine topics plus an additional topic of access to basic financial services including banks and ATMs

(3) Update on individual stakeholder organisations’ research areas.
In discussion the following areas of research were mentioned:

–          Rural Transport (Federation of Small Businesses)
          Impact of floods on Older People (Age UK)
–          Park Homes campaign (Age UK)
          Brownfield/ greenfield development  (CPRE)
          Analysis of small rural business survey (Newcastle University)

Please could links and information on any additional research be emailed to Jane Hart so that they may be circulated around the Group.

B. Procedural Matters

1(a) Health
David Inman commented that the Rural Services Network has an initiative to form a Rural Health Group. He will report back in November about whether there is any role for Rural England CIC.

(b) Rural Proofing
There had been a response to the Cameron Report from Defra in December but there is still a big question-mark about the resource available for rural-proofing within Defra.

It was agreed to contact Lord Cameron and an appropriate contact in the Cabinet Office (Richard Quallington to identify the best person).

(c) Vice Chair
Margaret Clark has kindly agreed to take on the role of Vice Chair with a view to being Chair in due course.

(d) Austerity and Rural Provision.
It was agreed that Jane Hart would check through the key points of Paul Milbourne’s presentation to identify any issues that have not been picked up in current research.

2. Stakeholder Grouping

(1) David Inman reported that the Rural Issues Group of the Citizens Bureau and First Bus (First Group) had both joined the Stakeholder Group.

(2) David Inman reported that he had made an approach to the South West Farming and Food Network had been approached but there is uncertainty about how many of the networks will continue and in what form.

3. Supporter Groups
David Inman circulated a list of potential supporter groups and asked for any further suggestions to be emailed to him ( ). He clarified the aim of attracting £120,000 p.a. through support from 600 supporting companies and emphasised the importance of supporters being sufficiently engaged to continue making an annual subscription.

4. Wall of Support and Rural Lens
The Group was happy with the approach outlined by David Inman and it was agreed that supporters logos be added to a backing page.

5. Defra
Defra had been sent an email seeking their endorsement of Rural England’s work and a number of wording options had been suggested. Their response in awaited.

6. Budget
Graham Biggs circulated the budget paper and clarified certain elements. The budget was agreed.

He also advised of his intention to resign as a Director but remain as Company Secretary.

7. Business Plan
Andy Dean presented the proposed business plan which was agreed subject to inclusion of various observations from the group including:

·         The date of preparation of the Business Plan should be added, as should any subsequent alterations.
·         The Plan overtly recognising the private and not-for -profit sectors as part of the target audience.
·         Young Farmers to be added to the list of organisations.

It was further suggested that dialogue with sponsors should ask if there are any areas they might like Rural England to look at.

8. The role of Stakeholders
Jo Lavis presented a report formalising the roles of Directors and Stakeholders in achieving their joint aims. The report was agreed.

9. Rural England Website.
The Group was informed that the website is now running although it could not reach its full potential until all information requested had been received.

Careful thought would need to be given to how best to show the research work of stakeholders.

C. Reports

(1) Progressing the Supporter Group
David Inman explained the proposed incentive scheme for recruiting additional supporters, clarifying that it is intended to use only people who were already with RSN or Rural England.  The proposed approach was agreed.

(2) Scoping additional work
The Group were advised of on-going discussions with CCRI at the University of Gloucestershire aimed at forming a rural panel. At present Rural England has access to RSNs two sounding boards of Parish Councillors and Principal Local Authority Councillors but it would be helpful to include a wider cross-section of younger people, rural residents and businesses.

Graham Biggs confirmed that the Rural Panel work and networking was in the budget for 2016/17. Good rural practice was a work area budgeted for 2017/18 but this could be progressed incrementally as funding permits.

D. Date of next meeting
The next meetings will be held on 6th June and 7th November and a meeting with UKRPPRG on 5th December.